The Colorful Beauty of the Petrified Forest

Petrified PetroglyphsThere’s a magical place in the middle of Arizona that boasts a colorful painted desert.  The Petrified Forest is part of the National Park Service and just may be my favorite park outside of the Grand Canyon.  After all, where else can you truly walk in the footsteps of dinosaurs?

There is so much to see and do that you can’t do it all in one day, not even in two hours.  The Petrified Forest spans 50,000 acres and hikers can spend days exploring the forest and the desert badlands.

If archaeology’s your thing, the park has that too.  The Puerco Pueblo ruins are easy to navigate.  You can see thousand-year-old pueblo structures and petroglyphs well off the beaten path.  The ancient pueblos are fascinating and an easy way to explore that culture.  The ruins here are much easier to visit than nearby Walnut Canyon which is drab and quite strenuous to explore.

Yet, most visitors stop here on the way to somewhere else and that’s the tragedy, running out of time.  So, when all you have is a half day to explore, my fave park ranger Richard suggested I start at the southern end and work my way across the well-marked route.

Painted Desert Badlands

In a little over two hours, I was able to inhale the natural beauty of the Petrified Forest and the Painted Desert.  My visit also included a stop at the Painted Desert Inn, where visitors could grab a bite and a rest in the 1930s and 40s before continuing their adventure.  You can also cross an original stretch of historic Route 66 marked by a line of old telephone polls.  A 1932 Studebaker is parked nearby, randomly in the middle of the desert. Why?  No one knows.

Petrified Forest Route 66

AUTHOR’s ROUTE:  Enter the park at the entrance just off Exit 285 on Eastbound I40.  Visit the Rainbow Forest Museum and nearby Giant Logs; drive through colorful Crystal Forest, Agate Bridge and the the colorful badlands of the Blue Mesa en route to the ruins and petroglyphs of Puerco Pueblo, Route 66 and the Painted Desert Inn.  It’s about 26 miles from the Museum to the Inn and with photo stops along the way, it should take you about 40 minutes one way.


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